The chancellor of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will step down at the end of the month following a controversy over the removal of a Confederate monument from the campus.
Citing ongoing campus safety concerns, Chancellor Carol Folt authorized the Jan. 15 unannounced, late-night take down of the stone base and bronze tablets that marked “Silent Sam,” the sculpture of a soldier that protesters pulled down in August 2018.
“Despite our best efforts, even since that time, threats have continued to grow and place our community at serious risk. This led me to the action that I authorized,” Folt said. “While I recognize that some may not agree with my decision to remove the base and tablets now, I’m confident that this was the right one for our community.”
The statue was erected in 1913 as a memorial to students and alumni who fought and died for the Confederacy in the Civil War but also served as a reminder of the South’s history of racism.
Before Folt took action, the university Board of Governors was already working on a possible relocation plan for the statue, which has been in storage since its removal. Board Chairman Harry Smith said the group wanted to have a relocation plan by mid-March.
Folt’s surprise move prompted the board to demand she leave her post at the end of the month even though she had already said she would depart at the end of the school year in May. The removal of the statue base and tablets initially drew an angry response from Smith, but he denied that the board was punishing Folt by demanding her immediate exit.
“We take a look at what we think is the very best for the institution,” Smith said. “We feel strongly that it’s probably in the best interest to go ahead and allow a change in leadership so we can move to a healing process.” —L.E.